Friday, September 26, 2008

Backpacks Are Killing Our Kids' Backs!

Last week we had a post about the ultimate school backpack for our girls to help prevent back injury (scroll below for info on the Zuca bag). Well, our fears are not unfounded - according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), studies show that:
- More than half of students ages 9 to 20 reported chronic back pain related to backpacks
- Backpacks are believed to play at least some part in the lower back pain reported by almost 60% of older teens
- Back pain leads to more than 19 million doctor visits per year, according to the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services. (Source:

Our school nurse has sent home notices on preventing backpack-related injuries, and we just had to share. She recommends selecting a backpack based on the following criteria: lightweight materials, padded back and padded shoulder straps (at least 2 inches wide), waist belt/hip strap, individualized compartments, and wheels.
Her strategies for preventing back injury from backpacks include:
Loading the Backpack
• Keep the weight of the pack under 15% of your daughter’s bodyweight (e.g. if she weighs 100 pounds, the pack should weigh no more than 15 pounds) – multiply her weight x .15 to determine the maximum backpack weight.
• Pack heaviest items first, keeping them closest to her back.
• Use compartments to distribute weight evenly.
• Arrange items so they won’t move around inside the pack.
Monitoring the Weight of the Backpack
• Establish a routine to go through the backpack at least once per week to empty out unnecessary materials.
• Make sure your daughter is only transporting necessary materials to and from school. Are there books in the classroom that don’t need to be carried back and forth? Can homework be downloaded from a teacher web page instead?
• When possible, use spiral notebooks rather than binders..
• If your daughter must have binders, use 1-inch ring binders rather than 2-inch or 3-inch ring binders.
• Choose the smallest backpack that will meet her needs.
• When the backpack weighs more than 15% of your daughter’s bodyweight, have her carry a book in her hands to lighten the load on her back.
• If she is leaning forward when walking while wearing the backpack, it is too heavy.
• If possible, use a book bag with wheels.
Wearing a Backpack Correctly
• Have your daughter wear the backpack over both shoulders. Consistently carrying a backpack over one shoulder can strain back and neck muscles, cause muscle spasms and back pain, cause curving of the spine, and contribute to headaches and arm pain.
• Adjust the shoulder straps to fit the backpack snugly to your daughter’s body. She should NOT carry backpacks low near the buttocks or hanging loosely from her body, as this can pull her backwards and strain muscles.
• Use the chest strap to help keep shoulder straps in place.
• Wear the waist belt or hip strap to distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly (although this will be viewed by your daughter as “uncool”!)
(Sources: American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., and )

We hope you find these tips helpful - we did.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Book On Parenting Tweens

A new book on parenting in the tween years has just come out by DC area writer Marybeth Hicks. The book is titled "Bringing Up Geeks", and in it, "geek" stands for: genuine, enthusiastic, empowered kid. We have not yet read the book, but the premise of protecting childhood innocence a bit longer into the tween years intrigues us. Ms. Twixt plans to read this during the carpool line/ballet class/soccer practice wait - please do post your comments as well!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Juggler's Guilt

Well, school is officially underway, and so are the multitude of activities and events requiring parental attendance and/or involvement - Back to School Night, orientations, welcome events, kick-off meetings - you name it. And if you have more than one child, well, you are probably already in support of cloning research.
I've often joked that as a parent, one must write-off all of September and May for school events - my calendar is so over-booked that client travel becomes nearly a relief from it all.
But what if you can't make these events? What if that client meeting/surgery/deposition/court date/whatever could not be moved? Will your kid be the only one there solo, pining for his/her parental unit? Are you scarring them for life? I've run into so many parents of late confronting exactly this dilemma: whom to let down - their boss or their kid. What a choice! And why must we be making them??
The guilt is overwhelming. And I don't know about you, but boy am I exhausted by juggling all those balls. I suppose the only good news is that we're not alone in either the guilt or the exhaustion.
If this were the work world, Back to School would be treated as an off-site for 3 days at some comfy resort complete with all manner of bonding activities, catered affairs, and social mixers. It would be sacred time carved out of our hectic lives to focus on getting our kids properly "on-boarded" for the year. Instead, it is crammed in over the course of several weeks to give us ample time to piss off work colleagues/clients, arrive late to several events, miss deadlines (for both work and school), and feel inept at our ability to manage it all.
Enough already! Ditch the guilt. We're doing our best to manage it all, prioritizing our kids as much as possible, keeping our jobs, and striving to contribute meaningful to our schools. Our kids are (hopefully) more resilient than we think and will understand that they always come first (and that they, as a person, are the priority, not the school event). But the guilt isn't productive and doesn't help our kids. Striving forth with as much confidence as we can muster teaches them by example that we have done our best, made our peace, and are moving on. And that is definitely a lesson I want my girls to take.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

BEST backpack for Back to School!

We have finally found the answer to our backpack prayers: a backpack that my girls can carry on their own, that won't cause scoliosis (curvature of the spine), is durable, and looks SO cool! It's called the Zuca, and we LOVE ours!! The girls got them with a hot pink frame, flashing wheels, and a (get this!) white write-erase bag - see the pics! Their friends leave them notes right on the backpack. The Zuca is essentially a locker on wheels. It holds a TON, and the girls can sit on them (the seat can take up to 300 lbs of weight). It has stacked wheels that allows them to easily climb stairs with their bags. Tons of little pockets, cute and colorful - this is easily our fave Back to School purchase. We were so enamored with the bags that we bought them for the store as well - we're the only place in DC to get them! Stop by the store if you'd like to take one for a spin and check them out (and save on the shipping charge).
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